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It's not just COVID-19. Flu cases are on the rise in Arizona, too

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2022 - 2:04pm
Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2022 - 3:50pm

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Arizona flu season 2022
Arizona Department of Health Services
Arizona influenza activity as of May 2022.

COVID-19 is on the rise again in Arizona, but the state is seeing a steady increase in influenza cases, too. Flu season is usually coming to an end by this time of year, but the Arizona Department of Health Services reported more than 1,000 flu cases last week — the highest count so far this season.

"It's something that we do not normally see," said Dr. Eugene Livar with the Arizona Department of Health Services' bureau of epidemiology and disease control. 

Flu season, which typically begins in October or November, has been relatively mild so far in Arizona. Over the past several months, the state has recorded about 13,000 total cases, which is about 40% fewer cases than Arizona would see in an average season. But caseloads have been climbing steadily since late January, and since late March, weekly case counts have been above-average. Last week's count of 1,026 cases is more than four times higher than the average for mid-May.  

“Normally, in influenza seasons, we have peaks around January, February or maybe as late as March, but we are seeing an increase at this time in this particular season a little later than usual,” Livar said. 

And Livar said it's hard to guess why this is happening now or what will happen in the weeks ahead. 

“Influenza is notoriously unpredictable and each season can vary greatly from the last,” Livar said. "It's something that we just need to monitor and keep an eye on going forward." 

Livar said flu and COVID-19 symptoms are very similar, so anyone feeling sick should get tested for both and avoid contact with others.

He said influenza vaccines offer the best protection against the virus. If you have not gotten a flu shot yet this season, he said it’s not too late.

"Getting vaccinated can save you a trip to the hospital," Livar said.

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